“A chicken in every pot” was Herbert Hoover’s presidential campaign slogan in 1928; a plentitude of chicken dinners was a reflection of national prosperity. His vision was realized: now there is a chicken in every pot—and one in every oven, microwave, grill, rotisserie—you get the picture. Chicken is now one of the most popular (and economical) choices for dinner. It’s wonderfully versatile: from the simple roasted bird to an elaborate coq au vin, everyone has a favorite chicken dish. We rounded up a flock of fine chicken dishes for you to enjoy nearby.
The family-owned Casa Lupita has been tantalizing our taste buds with vibrant Mexican fare for a decade. Chicken lends itself well to a bevy of bold spices, and we love the hands-on factor of a fajita: char-grilled strips of white meat chicken with various condiments and fillings to be arranged according to whim. Your plate includes grilled peppers and onions plus salsa, guacamole, sour cream and more. A pile of soft steamed flour tortillas stands by to help you realize your artfully sassy Mexican roll-up. Experiment with various combinations and let your creativity soar. $8.75. 1350 Highway 96 E.; White Bear Lake; 651.348.7571.
PARMESAN CHICKEN STRIPS
Chicken makes for great pub food because it can be neatly tricked out in a number of guises. Manitou Station’s lively bar scene demands tasty niblets, and their Parmesan chicken strips are crazy-popular with the drinking crowd. Five per order, the hand-cut breast is breaded, deep-fried and served with cool, creamy ranch dressing. You might also request sweet barbecue or piquant buffalo sauce for dipping variety. Strong, salty flavors engender a bone-sucking gusto that translates into multiple drink orders. Enjoy those strips with several tall frosty ones. $8. 2171 Fourth St., White Bear Lake, 651.426.2300.
FETTUCCINE ALFREDO WITH CHICKEN
Roma Restaurant Bar and Market
The chicken may play second fiddle to the toothsome, cream-slicked noodles of our dreams, but is by no means an afterthought at this restaurant. Roma grills a simply seasoned 6 oz. breast of bird on the flattop; the result is tender bites of meat that meld seamlessly with the lush pasta dish. The chicken is usually arranged on top, but you can request the strips mixed into the sauce instead. All pastas and entrées come with a fresh salad and a hearty Italian roll. $15. 460 Stillwater Road, Willernie; 651.653.4733.
MOZZARELLA STUFFED CHICKEN BREAST WITH MARINARA SAUCE
Rudy’s Redeye Grill
A monster chicken breast—8 oz., that is—gets royal treatment at Rudy’s Redeye Grill. It’s seasoned, grilled and stuffed with as much molten mozzarella as it can hold. A generous bath of sweet tomato marinara sauce keeps the meat moist; the final dish wears a delectable cloak of melted provolone cheese. A side of angel hair pasta gets in on the act. Happily, it’s doused with more of that silky, slurpy marinara sauce. $18. 4940 Highway 61, White Bear Lake; 651.653.6718.
JERK CARIBBEAN CHICKEN SANDWICH
Washington Square Bar and Grill
Did we mention chicken’s versatility? A chicken breast makes a handy and healthy burger, but resist thinking of it as a mere substitute—it is a supreme piece of protein in its own right. Washington Square runs with the bird’s inherent possibilities, dedicating an entire menu section to variations of chicken-on-a-bun. The building blocks are a 4–6 oz. chicken breast and a fresh bun; these basics morph into a panoply of flavors. There is buffalo, teriyaki, Hawaiian, hickory, mushroom and Swiss, the naughty (i.e., spicy) buffalo and our favorite, jerk Caribbean, which is so much more than its name implies. This lucky chickie gets a rubdown with smoky, spicy jerk seasoning—cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, onion, thyme and allspice—and buried in a landslide of grilled veggies: red and green bell peppers, onions and mushrooms. Sundried tomatoes and Swiss cheese may have nothing to do with the Caribbean. but they definitely belong here, adding the perfect note of sweetness and tang. $9–$10.50. 4736 Washington Square; White Bear Lake; 651.407.7162.
Chicken at a steakhouse? Heck, yeah! When it’s as good as the stuffed chicken at Gordy’s, it’ll stand up to any swaggering slab of beefsteak. Unlike at many red meat joints, Gordy’s requisite chicken entrée isn’t just a sorry consolation prize for the red meat-averse, but a delicious contender in its own right. Their generously breaded chicken breast is slowly baked with garlic butter and provolone cheese—think upscale chicken Kiev—and served over a rich mound of wild rice risotto, a nutty treat in itself. Where’s the beef? Who cares? $17.99. 301 Stillwater Road, Willernie; 651.762.9662.
Everyone has their favorite part of the bird: white-meat-only-please, drumstick man and lest we forget, the wing fiend. Chicken wings have reached the realm of cult status and are a constant subject of debate. Chicken wings appear on almost every menu these days, and the Lakeside Club’s breaded version makes a hearty appetizer or satisfying bar snack. Think about it: A chicken wing has the highest ratio of skin to meat, which naturally translates into flavor and moistness to the max. Extra napkins, stat! $7.45. 10 Old Wildwood Road, Mahtomedi; 651.777.4097.